Thursday, November 5, 2015

Skyfall - Roger Deakins

Roger Deakins is arguably one of the best cinematographers of our time. I couldn't resist analyzing his work for this class. I'm absolutely  mesmerized by every project he does. Deakins, being a very humble man and someone who firmly believes in not letting his art get in the way of the story, would probably be dismayed to get any of this attention. However, I can't help but be particularly struck by how brilliantly he captures landscapes. He has a way of conveying the mood of an environment in one large, sweeping shot. It isn't dramatic, and it doesn't distract from the storyline, but it is nonetheless stunning.
I originally wanted to do this project on his latest film, Sicario, which is just mind-blowing. However, I couldn't find any of the scenes I had in mind. So, I decided to analyze one of my favorite films, Skyfall.
Skyfall is the first film Deakins used a digital camera to film with. He worked with the Arri Alexa, and seemed to have been very impressed by it. The scene I absolutely love is when Bond and M flee to Skyfall, Bond's childhood home in Scotland. Up until this point in the film, the colors and lights have been warm and bright. When they go to Scotland, the colors turn cold and subdued. This transition to a bleak landscape signals a major shift in the film. Act II has begun.

This place is effective in conveying how very alone and isolated our main characters now are - not just in the physical location, but in the final showdown they're preparing to fight in. The cold tones also set a very chilling, ominous mood to the scene. This setting is also what I'd like to call visually quiet. It isn't flashy or busy. It is very simple and stark. You can sense this silence is the call before the storm. The vast space and emptiness add to the cold uneasiness of this scene.
There's a lot of great balance here. The symmetry is very clear in some shots, like when he parks the car in front of the house. The house itself is very symmetrical. I also just love the way Deakins speaks to use through his shots inside the house. When Bond and M walk in, we get several shots of them from far away, behind furniture and door frames. This hints that they are being watched.
I also have to give nods to the production designer, Dennis Gassner, and the costume designer, Jany Temime, for coordinating the colors of the house interior and the characters' clothes to the scenery outside.
In conclusion, go see Sicario.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Design Evaluation

They may warn against judging a book by its cover, but that's  exactly what I intend to do right now. As an avid reader, I am frequently browsing bookshops for another good novel to adopt into my collection. I often find myself overwhelmed by the wide array of books to choose from, and, much as I hate to admit it, I usually resort to selecting my next book based on its cover design.

The cover is your first clue as to what kind of story is going to unfold on the pages beneath it. I think that makes it immensely important to design a cover that draws a person in and hints at the storyline, without taking attention away from the actual story. I personally am not so much interested in the exact plot of a novel, but rather in the mood of it. The covers I am drawn to are the ones that establish a mood that particularly strikes me.

So, I decided to take my favorite book, Far from the Madding Crowd, and display two different covers for it, to clearly illustrate how a cover can make or break a first encounter with a book, regardless of its content.


This is the copy I own, because the moment I pulled it off the shelf, I fell in love with it. The simplicity of the image and the font is perfect. There's no clutter, and it doesn't feel like it's shouting at you. The soft, warm colors are inviting. The landscape depicted seems so open and spacious because the design of this cover allows the artwork to fill the entire from, which gives it a rather infinite feel. This feeling is also improved by the fact that the title isn't obstructing the scene. The font and color of the title print is very demure, and it blends very nicely into the artwork, without disappearing in it.  In the story, the country is very much its own character, and I think that's portrayed well on the cover. It sets a mood of a warm, lively countryside that is indeed quite far from the madding crowd.


This design simply grates my nerves. While the artwork does depict a beautiful landscape, it is completely overtaken by the print of the title and author. The font is big, loud, and pushy. The colors behind the words clash terribly with the painting. The green is too vivid and jarring set against the softer tints of the artwork. Also, the landscape on this cover is boxed in by the solid blocks that back the title and author. A stuffy, claustrophobic feeling is the result. Overall, this cover just appears very clumsy and noisy, and it fails to establish a proper mood for the story. If I had discovered this cover design first, I may have never read the book that now means so much to me, and that would have been a terrible shame.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Visceral Response

I selected a photo that not only pulls a deep emotional response from me, but also simply makes me stop and stare, as if time is standing still. It has two key elements that I am attracted to: fog and silhouettes. It also features my mother, which triggers my deepest emotions here. I took this photo last autumn while we were out on our morning walk along the country roads where I grew up. This image essentially captures everything I love most about the place I call home.

The lines of this photo, like the road, fence posts, and power lines, are very important to this photo because they provide structure and familiarity. The soft fog creates a very otherworldly, infinite feeling, and without the stability of the lines in this frame, it might evoke a sense of floating away. The lines help us find some reality, and keep us tied to the ground. I also like that these lines aren't too sharp. They have gentle imperfections that I find soothing.

My favorite thing to look at is the dark form of my mum. In many ways, she stands in contradiction to her surroundings. Everything is gentle and soft, except for this woman with her upright posture and hard expression. To me, it signifies her strength and resilience, which are the qualities I admire the most in my mother. Looking at her prominent profile, I feel this incredible sense of awe and inspiration. I love that even though you can't see much of her, you see enough in her shape to identify her most important characteristics. Having said that, some mystery still remains in this shadowy silhouette.

The other element of mystery is the fog that fills the space. I can't get over the complexity of it. This fog gives us a feeling of intimacy, yet simultaneously creates a sense of vast, open space lying beyond its veil. The intimacy comes from how closed-in and utterly alone the fog makes us feel. The sensation of the space being large is felt when we try to look out and guess what is past the fog. For all we know, the fields could stretch ever on, into infinity, and that certainly makes this photo's world feel big, I think.

The original photo I took had a colder tint to it. It was a very wet, chilly morning, and that clearly showed in the picture. While there wasn't anything wrong with that, I sought to give it a slightly warmer, more earthy tone. I added a filter that gave it the brown hues we see in the final product. I think it emphasizes the land more, with its rich brown. I also love how it brings out the distinct texture of the tire tracks on the muddy road. It's a great contrast from the generally soft texture that the fog gives this photo.

Overall, the thing I enjoy the most is the peacefulness and quiet this photo conveys to me. I also love that there's still a great deal of mystery to this image. This mystery allows people to interpret this photo in their own unique ways. The fog and the silhouette provide a canvas for us to project our own ideas and emotions onto. It becomes whatever we want it to be.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Hey, everyone!

My name is Kate Murdoch. I'm a senior at Dixie State University and am majoring in Mass Communication. I've spent the past two summers working for Sundance, and I hope to possibly continue working with this organization in the future.

I am a huge cinephile. I'm very passionate about film, and I care deeply about the progress and success of independent filmmakers. Some people count down the days until Christmas - I count down the days until the Sundance Film Festival. I've seen some truly incredible films and have met so many talented and utterly brilliant people there over the years. At the festival, I try to see a wide variety of films, but if anything by Brit Marling is in the lineup, you can bet I'll be there first.

The one element of film that I am most interested in is cinematography. My favorite DPs include Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Robbie Ryan - basically anyone with a knack for capturing the mood of a wild landscape. I am in awe of how these people can achieve such powerful images. Hopefully this class will help me to better understand how these shots accomplish so much emotion and why I am personally drawn to them.

So, taking that into account, I'm fairly certain that Visual Communication will be my favorite course this semester. I'm really excited about it!